Monday, August 31, 2009

mushroom compost and peak oil hummous

The good bits: 1. shovelled the newly arrived mushroom compost onto the punga raised bed and then sowed lots of seeds in it. 2. made three loaves of bread and a double batch of hummous and made up nine packets of four hummous sandwiches, seven of which are now in the freezer.

The useless bits: 1-a big number. the many things I did not protect from Brighid. Leaving my best sewing scissors in the lounge where she found them and cut up Fionn's precious league team photo for which we paid $15 only two days ago. The dried apricots. The liquid soap. The toothpaste. The state of the bathroom generally. The state of the house generally.

Shall I go back to the good bits then?

At coffee group this morning, I was given some pea and sunflower seedlings. The sunflowers need a bit more mollycoddling I think, but I have planted the peas in the newly filled punga raised bed and covered each one with a 3 litre juice bottle with the bottom cut out of it. This is to protect the peas from the blackbirds. However the juice bottles are Brighid magnets and so I still have some protection issues. I also sowed seeds of two kinds of carrots, chervil, two kinds of beetroot, calendula, argentata beet, borlotti beans, lettuce and maybe something else I have forgotten. I figure I have nothing to lose on the carrot front - the fresh compost will make them fork according to the books but really if I have enough success with these carrots that they fork as opposed to never eventuate like usual, then forked will be treasured.

Yesterday I planted three cabbage trees in our bog patch, the patch most famous in my mind as the overgrown yucky tree areas which I attacked three weeks post birth, days post an extended period of antibiotics and then seized up big time. They asked me not to lop trees so soon post birth in future. The midwife, the doctor, the husband. But as I haven't given birth for years now and certainly haven't touched antibiotics either, I can get stuck in and do a little more gentle pruning of woody mints and re-sprouting ugly trees. This area is beside Brighid's forest, which is the tiny glade of punga trees which Favourite Handyman planted the day Brighid was born. As he finished patting the soil on the last tree, I had the first contraction big enough that I needed to lean on him for help. I birthed her on the lounge floor about five hours later. Later FH added some cabbage trees to the grove, which she now wanders through on her dreamy treasure hunts. The new cabbage trees should extend the curve of trees down to the fence.

Back inside, I baked three loaves of bread this morning. This evening I did experiment number two with replacing the food processor (broken, like the toaster, the coffee plunger, the league photo, the dvd part of the combi television) with my spong mincer for the purposes of hummous making. Hummous making is the real reason I bought the food processor in the first place, though at the time I trotted out some nonsense about needing it for baby food, before I realised I wasn't that kind of mother and mashed with a fork kept the baby going just fine. I experimented with making it in the mortar and pestle but it was an average result and I couldn't make large batches that way. But the spong mincer, which I got from an op shop in London for mincing meat (best way to know what is in your mince), works well. It takes a bit longer than with a functional food processor but when the western world love affair with oil collapses and in some way which I forget at the moment this means we won't have much electricity, then I will still be making hummous in my manual mincer.

There are other reasons why hummous is wonderful. Lemon and garlic and tahini and chickpeas and olive oil and parsley and salt is all that goes into my hummous and this adds up to a lot of vitamin C and other healthful goodies.

Last night I made piroshki for the first time. I understimated how long it would take by hours and had to send FH out for fish and chips in the middle so we had them with beetroot soup tonight instead. Piroshki are veges cooked inside bread, just like calzone and cornish pasties and samosas are. The thing I liked about piroshki is that the suggested fillings (cabbage, for whcih I read kale) are much cheaper than calzone recipes. Useful for the hungry month.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Coriander surprise

Sitting here typing my gardening day up, drinking kefir, for all the world like a hippy who did not have KFC for lunch, or spend the evening at a rugby league prizegiving...

Turns out that our lovely new chooks adore bok choy. I weeded out all the lovely yellow flowered plants which ran almost straight from small seedling to seed in the recent warmth and the children fed it to the chooks. Behind the bok choy I had sown some beneficial insect blend and the hardier of this mix have been flopping round green and frothily. I also have some rocket in this wee patch. Hidden amongst it are three coriander plants, all looking quite healthy and completly invisible to me until today. I sowed the coriander seed last year and thought it a flop attempt. So I have weeded all the plants out except I have left the rocket (seeding, but I am getting into this self-seeding thing lately), the coriander and the alyssum. I sowed some miner's lettuce, some radishes and some mesclun lettuce mix in the gaps.

Did a spot of garden shopping and have a cubic metre of mushroom compost arriving on Monday. I bought some warratahs and then Favourite Handyman reused some shadecloth from the old temporary chook run to make a shelter fence for the lemon tree. The children and I rounded up lots of empty bottles and other rubbishy rubbish and went out to the dump. The project to make the side garden beautiful for our summer dining space has begun.

Friday, August 28, 2009


The blessed relief of Friday. August and September are crazy months here and Fridays at least involve me staying at home getting to do home things.

The chooks are settling in well. They are not so tame on arrival as our first chooks were but each day they get a little more confident when I come along with food. I boiled up swede and barley and vegetable peelings for them yesterday. A huge pot full. No eggs yet. The last two nights have been calmer on the wind front which hopefully is a little more pleasant for my five chooks. I am very very happy to have chooks again.

I am growing things inside again. I am starting off with kefir again after a break of several months. I made bread this morning using a wheat leaven. I've got a little bit of rye left (I liked my rye starter earlier this year) but have moved to wheat loaves as my flour supplier is out of rye until next season. A few weeks ago I made carrot and ginger pickle from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions book. The recipe said it was a good choice for people new to lacto-fermented vegetables and this has been the case for me. I will make it again. I used whey from our yoghurt which was just yoghurt from an easi-yo sachet. Now I have kefir again, I expect I will get whey with more probiotic goodies in it. Given the volumes of kale we have outside, I hope to use some of it for my first go at sauerkraut next week.

Last night I made chicken pie with part of Raelene's rooster. It tasted nice (never made chicken pie before) but I will try a different pastry recipe next time. I fancy a flaky pastry but the ingredients in the bought stuff are offputting. I guess sometime I will feel the kitchen mucking around love sufficiently to make my own flaky pastry. Fionn is now asking for a mince pie "just like the shop ones Mum". We might indeed make our own sometime but I think some of the shop additives and dubious ingredients can be left out.

Time to make chicken stock and escort a child to school. I suggested I walk him there in my pyjamas and he said no. No fun that kid.

This is my new favourite blog find: Nourished Kitchen. A recent post on low energy cooking had some interesting energy use comparison data. I find that when I am trying new things, I am not very efficient on the energy use front. Just getting the bread made is achievement enough without having planned what else will go in the oven straight afterwards. But after a bit of practise with a new bread recipe, I start making triple batches to be cooked at the same time. The baking I've been doing with my new Kenwood mixer has mostly been successful but I have yet to get organised the way my Mum taught me decades ago. Perhaps this afternoon I will have the kind of bakeathon I once did with biscuits and slices in perfect succession. Low energy stock is easy though, I much prefer to use the slow cooker for stock than a pot on the stove.

Still looking and planning in the garden. I am about to order two cubic metres of mushroom compost. We simply cannot make enough compost here to fill the punga raised bed. In addition, I need to raise our oldest bed substantially to compensate for the fact that the shed spouting drains directly into the soil below it.

Alright alright alright. I guess I have to get dressed now. I hope you all get good gardening weather this weekend.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Huge storm last night, a tough introduction for our new chooks. But they seem well today. They don't yet associate me with food and when I go to see them I can observe their potterings as if I wasn't there. One of the roosts blew down in the storm last night but the stronger one remains and tonight I went out with the torch and found all five sharing the surviving roost.

This afternoon I had a poultry adventure of a different kind. I met the very lovely Mr Munn who taught Raelene and I how to skin a young chook. He killed two of Raelene's roosters and we followed his guidance and had a go at one each. You miss out on the skin this way, but it is a lot faster than plucking. I have one rooster in the fridge as I type. Tomorrow will be stirfry or chicken pie and stock making and Friday (assuming I don't go on kitchen strike) will be chicken risotto. Mr Munn, who I'm guessing is in his seventies, learnt these skills from his mother. His family raised lots of chicks and sold both the egss and the dressed birds for eating. I'm guessing they had a good reputation locally and people knew their standards of cleanliness. Now, we are not allowed to process locally on a commercial level and are subject to the not always impressive standards of the big corporate producers.

Raelene also gave me a big pile of back copies of the Lifestyle Farmer magazine. Off to pore over those now...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chook heaven again

I collected five beautiful Brown Shaver point of lay chooks this afternoon and met the young boy who has raised them. They are in excellent condition and I was impressed all round.

It is totally wonderful to have chooks again. I put them in the run and, despite appalling weather here, went out to see them about six times between 4 and 6.30pm. Favourite Handyman and Fionn made roosts for them earlier in August and they are sleeping on them. Wonderful to see and if this keeps up, then our nesting box won't be so quickly full of poo like it was with our first chooks who preferred to sleep where they laid. But then I did shut them in the nesting box for the first 24 hours of them living with us....

Sunday, August 23, 2009

leftovers project

Hurray for Corrine! It was Corrine who commented recently on using leftover porridge in bread. So today I used the leftover porridge to make oat bread, using a mix of this long rise oat bread recipe and this faster one. It has turned out beautifully, and the biggest problem will be that I will eat lots of it which isn't good for me. I have a vegetarian loaf recipe much used in my student days which I resurrected last week. That has rolled oats in it and with a bit of tinkering could accomodate leftovers from the breakfast saucepan quite easily. I will post that later in the week.

This morning I snuck outside while the children weren't watching and sowed purple sprouting broccoli, broccoli de cicco, leeks carentan giant, celery for cutting and corn salad vert de cambrai. The first four are in seedling punnets and the last straight into the ground. Later I realised I had planted the leeks too early. Last year was too late. ah well.

I got back inside to discover Brighid was in the one unlatched ingredients cupboard (actually two of those old fashioned flour and sugar scoop shaped drawers which you pull down) and had poured 3kg of sugar throughout the rest of the contents and opened a few more bags for mixing purposes.

hmmmmmm. One way to have a clean up. At least now I know what is actually in those drawers and a lot of it is still viable but had been languishing forgotten. Time to cook with some hing I think. Turns out there is sushi rice in there after all and more half-started popcorn bags than I care to name. As for the various forgotten seaweeds...

But planning for the leftovers project. I soaked some black beans today and need to use them tomorrow. I tried not to soak loads as other times I have made ridiculous amounts of South Beach soup and not been able to face three days' worth of leftovers. Looking for a new recipe this time as peppers are stupidly expensive (and out of season blah blah), and I have neither limes nor coriander. Then black pudding and kale and pumpkin. We never have leftovers of black pudding, no matter how much I make. Probably the vegetarian loaf after that and then pay day!!!!! I think three days' planning is enough for the moment.

My other goal is to make food for me for lunches on Tuesday and Thursday as currently I make everyone else's and then get to work or work break starving and end up at Phil's bakery well before lunchtime (techincally I am home at lunchtime but sometimes lunchtime needs to come early as my tummy grumbles and rumbles and moans) . They do make a lovely steak and cracked pepper pie... I think I can manage it for Tuesday but as Thursday will be the day after pay day pay day pay day, I think I could fall off the wagon then. Perhaps just once.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Growing and cooking

Another pretend home school day while the boy healed his chest cough. All those vitamins and cod liver oil and probiotics I threw down his throat seem to have helped immensely. Looks like he will be able to play in the league semi-finals tomorrow after all.

But children smildren, the point really is that we got to bake and garden almost all day without bells shaping our lives. Banana and choc chip muffins, mini quiches and chocolate chippie biscuits. The freezer now contains plenty of good food for school lunches next week. Later on I made apple crumble for pudding and turned leftovers from earlier in the week into nachos. But more about leftovers later.

In the garden I pulled out a blackcurrant bush which looks the weaker of the three and is in a good place for more vegetables. Fionn and I dug a large whole and buried the bokashi. I am so excited to announce that we collect five new chooks on Monday, less than 72 hours away! The scraps situation is ridiculous without chooks to turn them into eggs for us. I did a little more work getting the poultry palace in tip top shape.

The beer traps for the slugs are working well. Other years I thought it was only a viable method in late summer when it is dry, but now I realise that so long as I only half fill them, and change the beer every few days, it can work the rest of the year as well. I tipped out more than 20 dead slugs this afternoon. I must look out for some super cheap beer for this job. Finest Monteiths Black may not be essential for slug killing.

I also snuck out when they were not looking (Brighid tends to wreck my seed sowing ventures if she sees them) and sowed some rocket and miners lettuce in the herb garden. There are a few small patches of dirt and I want end to end, path to wall, green-ness.

I also spent some time reading the Guardian Weekly and thinking about these articles on food waste. The first relating to a report on food security in the Uk over the next 40 years. The second is a review of Tristram Stuart's book Food Waste. There is an interesting slideshow of his activism here.

The politics of waste are pretty personal and I had already been pushing the leftover issue up the importance scale this week. I have slipped into a pattern of cooking a lot of meat because it is easily cooked (throwing a roast in the oven or sausages in the slow cooker feels pretty easy compared to mucking around with beans and three days at a time meal planning) and not using leftovers nearly as well as we could. After the death of our three chooks, the waste felt like a mountain and needing to dig the bokashi into the ground every week doesn't fit well with our inclement weather.

So this week I have begun my leftovers project, where I think not just of something for dinner each night when I write the shopping list, but of how food on Monday can be used again (but not repeated exactly) on Tuesday and Wednesday. This Wednesday just gone I cooked lima beans (soaked the day before) and made pumpkin and lima bean stew. I had eyed this recipe for years and now have finally made it. Some leftovers went into sandiwches for Favourite Handyman on Thursday. Tonight I added some roast pumpkin (which I cooked up as part of my prep for the mini quiches) and some of the leftover lima beans which weren't needed for the stew recipe and then made that the topping on corn chips to make nachos.

Not rocket science I know, but I felt a shade clever, given that I have slid into bad habits on the food waste front this year. Now I still have some lima beans to use up and I think tomorrow I will reheat them with more leftover pumpkin (I deliberately make lots of pumpkin for the fridge), some bacon ends from the butcher's and some kale. Plus lots of garlic of course. Bacon, kale and lots of garlic is a fantastic combo.

Thursday is the busiest day of my week and yesterday was no exception. I drove to Jonesy's butchery and asked for a roast to make life easy. I came away with some rolled lamb (cheapest roast option and Jonesy makes beautiful stuffing). So now I have leftovers from that and if they don't go into lunch tomorrow, then I will need to make shepherd's pie with it.

Painful level of detail, but I can see that if I don't plan in 3-4 day meal blocks and assume leftovers, the waste will continue. I'm not even ready to talk about the porridge waste yet - at least when we have chooks again they can enjoy it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mucking around not earning money

I finished my paid work part of Tuesday soon after 11am, collected my daughter and went home. It is wet and rather cool here today and I had to make myself stay home and make the place warm and moderately welcoming instead of yielding to the temptation to muck around town doing bits and bobs like the library and ending up buying shop food and generally pulverising the budget and any chance of an orderly home.

Anyway, there I was back at home being good and doing something in the kitchen like cleaning up. That's two days running and don't assume that this is normal for me to be able to see almost the entire kitchen bench so often and so easily. I am pretty adept at running up meals on the tiniest corner of bench top while the dishes wait saggily.

The phone rings. I wasn't sure who it was. Which is logical if you have not yet picked up the receiver but I am a bit freaky on the telephone front and frequently guess correctly who it will be before answering. Guarded in case it was those people selling insulation cold calling for the millionth time.

But it wasn't. It was my cousin Mary who is 82 and today it turns out she has a vomiting bug. So I spent some time talking and listening and reassuring and feeling her bewilderment and loneliness at being ill without her beloved and almost 2 years' deceased husband with her to keep her company. Later I dropped some enerlyte around to her to help her recover and then this evening I dropped in to find her much improved.

But of course this is waste of economic time activity isn't it? Because it doesn't generate tax revenue.

Of course having Brighid around me mucking round doing her thing getting into mischief and exploring the different patterns toy cars can be arranged and ordered into for the thousandth time isn't of much economic worth either. I could instead be working lots more hours for the tax man and paying for a nursery to care for her and then freaking out about her development and paying more money for computer games to help her count (but really to babysit her) and buying product after product to allay my fears about her progress in a consumerist, competitive world.

Only I don't. Today I knew for sure that mucking around at home, making shepherd's pie with leftovers from last night, folding a bit of washing and missing the chooks, singing nursery rhymes in the car on the way to return some scarily expensively overdue library books (tiny bit of town mucking about - can't be good all the time), being home when an elderly person who hates to intrude on busy lives rang, was totally valuable.

Monday, August 17, 2009


I've become pretty iffy about recycling as per those attractive colour coded bins that are seen (or I once saw) as proof of how environmentally progressive a council is.

So we send out our rubbish into special containers and the plastic gets shipped to China where they have more plastic than they can cope with a anyway and it gets turned into more plastic in unsavoury conditions. We put our glass empties into another container and that may sit in Christchurch doing nothing because there is no market for recycled glass. The cans may or may not be recycled as the world prices for many of these commodities is below the cost of getting them out of New Zealand to these markets.

Is all this fuel for the global transport of our rubbish ethically defensible?

I wonder if historians in fifty years will view the global recycling process as early 21st century imperialism. Rich world super-consumers dump their crap on poor countries and feel virtuous into the bargain.

In our part of the West Coast, recycling facilities, by rich world city standards, are abysmal. But that does mean that we have to deal with our own crap locally. It does mean that for the most part no poor bugger in China has to contend with our baked beans can or plastic milk bottle on his shanty doorstep.

Whereas reusing things, I am very enthusiastic about. In the weekend Favourite Handyman set to fixing up the Poultry Palace. Our stash of mesh netting, gifted to us by friends and neighbours as they cleared out their garages and knew we would find a use for it, came in very handy. We have used driftwood and gifted wood for all of our garden projects and for much of our small building projects. The tree hut is reuse city, as is the sandpit. The lean-to has some new wood and the rest reused wood.

My new Kenwood mixer from Mum is also a reuse, although only in the sense of having a new owner. I made a chocolate cake in it this afternoon and admired the perfectly smooth mixture it created. The children loved the cake, which is an Edmonds recipe. I was pleased with it but not so fond of the icing. I've been converted to the lusciousness of cafe chocolate cakes with their indulgent icing. Icing sugar with a bit of cocoa and some butter just doesn't cut it for me any more.

Last week I pulled undone the lovely variegated green cardigan which no longer fits Brighid. I have been unable to give it away, only the second knitted item I have ever made for her which she has outgrown. The first is a merino singlet but I am not reknitting 4 ply. I'm not sure I ever want to knit in 4 ply again. So I am reknitting the green variegated wool. I found an extra unused ball of the same wool so have enough to make a larger something.

When Brighid is out of nappies completely, I will pass on the shaped nappies and wraps/covers. But I do fancy making something else out of the muslins and the red stripe New Zealand flannel squares. They are lovely and soft and given that they are 100% cotton, they should take dye beautifully. I'm sure I could convert them into something sensible like washable menstrual pads or cleaning cloths, but I fancy something more creative. I can see in my mind a skirt of panels of dyed fabric with the fabric colours changing hue (unless I have a lobotomy, there will be no tie dye). I guess the red stripe nappies would convert to shopping bags easily enough, though even that seems more ruthlessly practical than I fancy at the moment. Brighid is our last baby and doing something significant with the nappy squares strikes me as a way of marking the changes in our family life.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Kenwood mixer

Mum and Dad drove over to watch Fionn play league today, then had lunch at our place. As usual, Dad had a wonderful bag of goodies from his garden, this time swedes and potatoes. Huge spuds - I could make gnocchi for all of us from just one his spuds I reckon.

Mum gave me a Kenwood mixer!! She has been planning and plotting this for ages, waiting until she had two good quality second hand mixers of the version widely considered the best around (I forget the number, but it is the dark blue model). Two because she wants my sister and I to both have one. It matters not what we imagine we want in our kitchens (nor whether our brother harbours secret baking longings, though there isn't much evidence of this so far), these are the gifts which she wants to make.

My Mum is a superb cake and biscuit maker who used to win prizes at A & P shows and the like before she got married. After she got married, she was still well known for her excellent kitchen skills but it was mostly Dad and us kids who got to scoff her concoctions. I can still recall the taste of tan square, belgian biscuits and caramel slice from the tins after school. If I'm going to make good use of this gift, then I can't see my nutritional goals of limited refined flour and sugar being met consistently.

It was Mum who taught me to bake. There was nothing romantic about the passing on of these skills. My mother is efficient and methodical. I am, by comparison, dreamy and chaotic. There were raised voices, tears and grandstanding most baking sessions. Once I got good enough to be left alone to bake while Mum carried on with the Saturday laundry (which used to trail out of the tiny laundry at the beginning of Saturday morning and carry on non-stop all morning), then tempers improved. On both sides. Mum would admire my finished products without the frustration of seeing that I had (I was 11 or 12 at the time) used the oven inefficiently by focusing on one recipe at a time. I used to make a cake, a batch of biscuits and a slice on a Saturday morning. Sometimes I made pikelets as well or instead and we would have them for Saturday lunch. Making pikelets is a great lesson in cooking skills - playing around with the just right temperature which cooks them right through without burning or becoming rubbery. I think that the smaller size is a lot less scary than getting pancakes 'right'.

These baking basics made it pretty easy for me to learn more complex cooking skills later on. I'm planning on giving my own children the same grounding. If we are all lucky, it won't be so fraught, but I'm the one thin on patience these days so don't bet on plain sailing.

I think I'll pull out the Edmonds recipe book sometime soon. But I would really like to know what other people use their cake mixer for which is a little healthier. A recipe for one of those gorgeous carrot cakes like they have in old style health food shops would be lovely if anyone has one to share. I need to pull out my old Grassroots magazines as I know there have been several vegetable cake recipes in them.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Home made

Since I last posted we've wandered through a miasma of tummy bugs. We were all okay enough to attend a very special commitment ceremony/baby welcome on Saturday and I think I've sent Fionn to school once this week. As for the rest of the time...

Although I didn't get my party skirt made for the wedding, I did finish my knitted vest and wore that. I did make my last layby payment on my beautiful new winter boots and wore them. I did sit up the night before and make a wee red bag with buttons and sequins as a present for baby Lilly. I do seem to be getting into the stream of using my sewing machine to make special presents.

I need to get to the wool shop to buy some more double pointed needles and make some hats, but until then, it seems I have that knitting bug where I feel a bit lost if I haven't something to knit as I surf the net. So using some bright yellow wool leftovers from Fionn's sleeveless hoodie, I am making a doll's dress. It's getting a little serious, this home made lark. I'm even contemplating making a quilt or something similar for our bed. Which given I never even achieve a clean kitchen bench and a clear lounge floor at the same time, is proof of my domestic insanity.

For much of today and yesterday, I read aloud to Fionn (6). We laughed our way through the antics of Pippi Longstocking and then read Heidi. I think I enjoyed Heidi more than Fionn but he did keep asking for the next chapter. Back when I read Heidi for the first time, from the green covered book which was once my mother's (Missjoestar do you have it now?), I wasn't thinking about the Nourishing Traditions book and considering how they cured the meat and the benefits of the raw milk and cultured cheeses. This time I interrogated every reference to food!

I have ordered five point of lay pullets and will collect them within the fortnight, by which time we will have made the most crucial changes to the fence line and the repairs to the poultry palace. One neighbour told me yesterday that he thinks the dogs have gone permanently - perhaps we have less to worry about then.

I have rocket seedlings peeping through from last week's sowing. Favourite Handyman has made a beautiful raised bed for our lemon tree out of one shortish railway sleeper which was given to us and from driftwood which we have collected on the other three sides. Our three chooks are buried underneath this new garden bed. I see we have some miner's lettuce in the herb garden and quite a few self sown pansies. Out the front we have purple and white crocuses in bloom. On Monday my neighbour who is the rose club enthusiast gave me 23 cuttings from her many beautiful rose plants and I have made another rose nursery in an area which I weeded last month with the intention of putting more flowers in it. I am almost certain there has been coal ash dumped there in the past, so no veges or herbs in that spot. If even a fraction of them thrive, then our garden is going to be beautiful indeed.

I contemplated the plum tree option. But the cost of two trees is $70. That was a biggie but also I thought perhaps I must invest in the future as early as possible. Then I looked up my books and looked out and had to admit that there is really no room unless I rob the children of their playspace. I tell you, there are only a small number of actions which show more how much I love those two monkeys than that they get to keep their sandpit (in the best spot for a tunnel house) and their trampoline (best spot for some more fruit trees) and some running around space (hmm, well they are keeping some of that). So no plum trees this year.

Next year I shall have crocuses all around the base of our biggest tree. This is our third spring here and it has now occurred to me that if the lawn is not mowed over the onion weed, then neither would it be mowed in late winter at such a time as to ruin the crocuses.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Killing for fun

Or that is the impression I got. When I got up this morning I saw a dog in our back garden. I went out straight away - there should be no dogs in our back garden as we have (or so we thought) it fenced securely.

The large brown dog showed no inclination to leave the property and indeed seemed more interested in circling the chook run. I figured the chooks weren't at all fazed as they were making no sound.

I got crosser as the dog stayed around until then another dog emerged.

From inside the chook run.

I ran to see the damage and found our three chooks dead on the ground of the run.

They seemed to hear my anger after that and scarpered. There was only one place they could have got through and it involved the two dogs roaming through two other properties and then jumping over our lowest fence.

I was very very lucky that the children had an extraordinary sleep-in and missed all this. Later my lovely friend Nina and her two children came round. The big kids were both off school on account of being extremely tired and run down. Nina ended up babysitting all four children while I identified who the dogs belonged to and liaised with the dog control officer.

The owner of the dogs has visited and apologised and paid the price of replacing our chooks. When Favourite Handyman told Fionn after work, Fionn was quite matter of fact and said "So we can eat them then."


I'll be talking to more neighbours over the next few days. I've done a little research on getting more chooks but despite these practicalities, I am still stunned and very sad. The chook run itself will need some repairs and we are going to repair a fence between two of our neighbours. In addition, we will move the big pile of weeds and compost which rests up against the neighbour's side of our lowest fence and which provided a ramp for the dogs to mount the fence from. After that, I will price options for raising the height of that lowest fence. Barbed wire might be the best option. I am even wondering about the far side fences in case these dogs (one of which killed a penguin last week I have since learnt) go down to the beach and then explore all the houses closest to the beach, a couple of which are unfenced at the front and border on our home, with aimilarly low fences to us as the one the dogs leaped over this morning.

Only after that, will I get new chooks in. The owner has been fined and ordered to keep the dogs suitably contained but I am sceptical of her ability to do this consistently and want to make sure they don't get my chooks again.

Last night Favourite Handyman made poached eggs for dinner and they were, as usual, very yummy. I didn't know that was The Last Supper. Today I have realised how often I think of our chooks. Each time I see scraps in the kitchen (very frequently it seems) I think of the chooks and now each time there is an emptiness, a sense of waste and of something more sad than waste. Lovely lovely Nina did lots of dishes for me which reduced the kitchen reflection time. Seeing the children have such fun making huts behind the couch (I kept them inside despite the sunshine) took some of the emptiness from the day.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I don't think I am the only one...

Who is diligent one day and disastrous the next. Who owns the ingredients for the next batch of home made washing powder but cannot muster home made lunch today. Who boiled pickled tongue for reasons of adventure and virtue yesterday and now cannot face sampling it.

Who made a shopping list and planned meals and then got so far behind in home life things that I spent $47 on Indian for dinner for all of us earlier this week.

Who would like her daughter to sleep all the way through the night, even when it is around the full moon.

Who can see clearly all the steps required for us all to have food on the table for dinner, clothes in drawers for tomorrow and a warm house but cannot find the energy to execute these steps.

Who supports the ideals of simple home living but actually also finds value in work outside the home. Who can clearly see that that outside work interferes with simple home living. Who works with people who have very unsimple lives. And finds it worthwhile.

I know at a rational level that I am not the only one. I am an ant among millions of home and not home jugglers. I would just like two things (oh, three actually):
a) to find that superwoman cape again, throw it on and feel the wind under my sails
b) for my stomach to return to correct function
c) a decent night's sleep

Monday, August 3, 2009

Drastic measures

Slugs have eaten almost all of my six new broccoli plants and nibbled quite a bit of my six new cabbage plants. Now I recall why I was so keen on kale - the slugs don't like it much.

I even thought I would go for slug bait. But Favourite Handyman vetoed that, pointing out that our daughter still likes to eat many things from the garden. So I broke open a bottle of our favourite beer from the fridge and set up some killer drowning stations this afternoon. Usually I wait until someone leaves beer at our place which we don't like the taste of, or one of us falls asleep with the children leaving a half started bottle of beer on the bench overnight.

Brighid and I set off to buy some rocket seed from the garden centre. We seem to have used the last packet up. The only option was one remaining packet of organic rocket seed - $6.70!


For one small packet of something which self seeds more often than many of us would like once summer arrives...

I think it is time I started collecting rocket seed. But for the moment, even at the princely sum of $6.70 per packet, it is still worth it to me. I have rocket in my fish and carrot and avocado and flax seed oil breakfast every morning. Since I've been having this yummy and satisfying breakfast, I no longer crave toast by mid-morning as I used to.

So I have sown some rocket seed in between some of my garlic bulbs. I also sowed some calendula seeds amongst my brassicas. In another experiment, I have sown some florence fennel seeds in the raised spot up the top of the section which is reserved in the longer run for pumpkins. If they grow within three months like the NZ Gardener claimed, then I will be eating them before I plant out the pumpkin seedlings.

My kale is running to seed. The leaves still seem to taste fine. So this year I have done better than last year at successional planting for winter eating - rare is the day in the last month that we have not eaten kale or silver beet from our garden. With the effect of shorter and slightly warmer days, I realise I have to plan better for late winter/early spring eating. Leeks and purple sprouting broccoli spring to mind as options. Any other suggestions?

My aunt told me once about having a tunnel or glass house with the chooks living in one end and them warming up the entire structure for winter growing. I am itching to try this. If I can just get a bamboo tunnel house built this summer, then I could be running this experiment next year.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

ice cream in the rain

When it rains and rains and hails and rains and pours and buckets down all day, the very best thing to do in a small interlude in the late afternoon is to don coats and boots and go for a walk to the beach.

We got down there and found the stream was a fast moving river and best not crossed, so went walking along the back lane and up through the new estate to the dairy for ice creams. We ate our frozen confections under the shop eave while a blast of heavy rain thundered down and then walked on home to have hot baths and bacon hock, bean and kale soup.

The Christchurch Press had a good article on the 20 free hours of childcare for 3 and 4 year olds scheme in New Zealand, now about to begin it's third year. I can't find it online. It does not point out that the research endorsing free early years 'education' was not universal, but rather showed significant benefits for children who came from deprived homes (e.g. depressed carers, violence). Somehow that got extrapolated out to apply to all New Zealand 3 and 4 year olds. Big big benefits for affluent and almost affluent working families who get very cheap childcare while they work. Not big benefits for families who want to access kindy or similar provision in poor suburbs and find there are hardly any places and many many people wanting them.

The article suggested that targeting of the subsidy to reach those who need it most would have to be looked at at some point. I agree.

What always annoys me on this subject is the undermining of home caring skills. There is an insidious message going on here that mothers offer inadequate support to their developing children. One big bucks childcare person even wanted free hours for two year olds. Of course the only way they can do this is by misreperesenting the research but they seem to be very happy to do exactly that.

The current scheme is a sop to middle income earners. That was Labour's project and now National are cementing very similar priorities by cutting state school budgets and bailing out the private school sector to the tune of $34 million.

More kindies and playcentres, fewer private child care centres. More than anything, more confidence to parents. We do not need institutions to 'socialise' our children. What a stupid term anyway, but all of us with under-fives hear it all the time.

What else this weekend? The school gala. I collected money, prepped faces and helped children decide what they wanted 'to be' for nearly four hours. Next time I am going to either volunteer for something which isn't the one stall which starts early and finishes late, or find someone to share the job. Tomorrow we find out how much money we made. I only made one child cry which seems pretty good going to me.

I was going to sow some seeds today but there was the small issue of the endless rain. Some other time. Nothing is going to grow super fast just right at the moment anyway.

Still no camera. Which is a shame as we have been invited to a wedding next weekend and I am somehow going to stop being tired at night and make myself a party skirt using part of the gorgeous African print I bought in Brixton, South London, six years ago and some bright green and navy, this week. A panel skirt. I agree. Time to find the camera.